Zero-G Technology Demonstration of Low-Cost Three-Axis CubeSat Attitude Control with Hard Disk Drive Reaction Wheels

PI: Stephen Robinson (2), University of California - Davis

The Zero-G Technology Demonstration of Low-Cost,Three-Axis CubeSat Attitude Control with Hard Disk Drive Reaction Wheels repurposes commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) hard disk drives to build CubeSat reaction wheels. Reaction wheels are an essential component for CubeSat attitude control but are often cost-prohibitive for low-budget mission developers and university researchers. Over four parabolic flights, researchers will assess the repurposed reaction wheels’ three-axis pointing and stabilization in microgravity. This technology would dramatically decrease the cost of a crucial CubeSat component.

Technology Areas (?)
  • NA
Problem Statement

Commercial satellite reaction wheels can cost up to $10,000, which is a significant portion of typical university satellite development budgets. To save on costs, low-budget mission developers at universities and elsewhere will sometimes manufacture their own reaction wheels, which can be less reliable and pose a higher risk for mechanical failures. Using COTS hard disk drives to produce reliable reaction wheels would enable rapid mission development.

Technology Maturation

In preparation for UC Davis’s Remote Experimentation and Analysis of Low Orbit Phenomena (REALOP) mission, parabolic flight testing will assess the wheels’ attitude control capabilitiesin all three axes of rotation. Specifically, successful three-axis pointing and stabilization in microgravity would mature this technology from TRL 4 to TRL 7.The reaction wheel design will be shared openly to support increased commercial activity in space.

Future Customers

•University researchers building CubeSats
•NASA and commercial CubeSat developers
•Other low-budget mission developers

Technology Details

  • Selection Date
    TechFlights20 (Sep 2020)
  • Program Status
  • Current TRL (?)
    Successful FOP Flights
  • 3 Parabolic

Development Team

  • PI
    Stephen Robinson (2)
  • Organization
    University of California - Davis
  • Sponsor

Web Accessibility and Privacy Notices Curator: Alexander van Dijk Responsible NASA Official: Stephan Ord Last Update: November 16, 2018